Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Re: Where are the Moderate Muslims?


You write, “Muslims who are moderate in their approach to religion are not necessarily tame in their attitude to the US and/or Israel . . .” Yes, I’m aware of this. Using Joffe’s analyses, the anti-Americanism of Muslims outside of the Middle East might more closely match that of the Europeans’. Europeans don’t wish us destroyed, but they disagree with a great number of things that we do and are. But when we get back to the Middle East, I’m not sure how useful it is to try and distinguish between the Fundamentalists who wish us destroyed and your hypothetical Moderates who merely hate us.

I have gone looking for Islamic Moderates in the Middle East. I mentioned reading Francois Burgat’s The Islamic Movement in North Africa. The edition I read was published in 1997 but he seems to have published it in French in 1988 and then initially in English in 1993. Burgat describes several Islamic intellectuals that he admires. I resolved to try and keep track of them and see if they influenced the Maghreb toward moderation, but my impression is that they became less moderate as time went on.

Raymond William Baker’s Islam without Fear, Egypt and the New Islamists, 2003, probably illustrates your thesis. Baker who is definitely an Arabist presents a number of intellectual Egyptian Islamists he admires, but in reading what he says about their beliefs, I wouldn’t place them in a moderate camp. What they want is not so very different from what the Fundamentalists want. They just want to go about it differently.

I read Abdelwahab Meddeb’s The Malady of Islam, published in English in 2003. You would I’m sure describe Meddeb as a moderate Muslim. He condemned Fundamentalism. It is Fundamentalism that is the “Malady of Islam,” but he doesn’t side with America. His position is closer to that of the land in which he resides. [He was at the time of the publication of his book, professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Paris X-Nanterre.]

I mentioned earlier an appreciation for the Japanese, but I also appreciate the Chinese. I studied their history a bit at one time. I was especially interested in Chinese poetry but also read a few Chinese novels in translation. I can sympathize with their disapproval of what can only be described as licentiousness here in America. They hope to become as wealthy as America without succumbing to its chaotic self-indulgence. I should mention that many in Christian circles here share the view of the Chinese. Any sort of curbing of this licentiousness is seen as inhibiting civil rights. Perhaps we will one day mature to the point of realizing that such expressions are not in anyone’s best interest. But for the time being, we place an emphasis on freedom. We might disapprove of certain music, activities, speech, stupidities, but we realize that if we attempt to curb them we may set something in motion we may not like. It would be best if individuals could learn to curb their own stupidities, but who is there to teach them to do that?

Still, there isn’t enough in that to make me Anti-American. I live here and it isn’t as bad as the Chinese think. They picture and describe various aspects of American unpleasantness, and while it exists in various places, it doesn’t exist where I live, nor does it exist, I suspect, where most Americans live. Americans can find the licentiousness if they want to, but they don’t have to; which is one of the characteristics of our freedom. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Chinese prefer prohibitions and punishment for violating these prohibitions. By the way there doesn’t seem to be a good way of separating personal freedom from economic freedom. I have read that the Chinese will eventually have to choose between their prohibitions and greater economic success. Perhaps they will make a decision similar to the Europeans and choose something a little less successful economically in order to maintain their desired social and political benefits.

Lawrence Helm

No comments: